Dieselpunks

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Star Wars - one of the original dieselpunk movies?

I jokingly posted a video a few days ago where someone had scene-by-scene taken the trailer for The Empire Strikes Back and juxtaposed old 50's video clips in their place. But in all seriousness, couldn't Star Wars be considered an example of dieselpunk?

I noticed this article on Wired.com today while I was searching for references for the Wikipedia article, and I got to thinking about it. Lucas did draw heavily on both WWII and pulp iconography when making Star Wars. The swashbuckling, ray-gun toting hero who shoots from the hip, the wise-cracking princess to be saved, the farm boy who makes good, the bigger-than-life villains, the comic "stooge" sidekicks... and the spaceship movements and radio chatter in the final battle were straight out of WWII films.

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Is this the inspiration for the Star Wars Episode 1 Pod Racers????

 

 

WOW! It really does look like it.

It took time for me, but anyone else remembered/had ever been played Crimson Skyes? A dieselpunk flight simulator par excellence! Set in a fragmented Alternate America in the 30's, based in an independent Califórnia called Nation of Hollywood.

http://www.microsoft.com/games/crimsonskies/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimson_Skies_(video_game)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimson_Skies

 

Pretty much hit it on the head, J.R.

J.R. said:

'Streamlined' isn't a word I'd use in conjunction with Star Wars's aesthetic. I always figured that SW's contributions to the 'punk' genres (primarily cyberpunk) come from its use of elements that are exactly the opposite of streamlined. I don't believe SW to actually BE dieselpunk, or punk of any kind, but you can trace its influence to dieselpunk if you look at the production design of films and comics from then until now.

 

Prior to Star Wars, Hollywood's vision of the future was always much more streamlined -- all those shiny rockets from Raygun Gothic, the minimalist mod designs from '60s and '70s sci-fi that weren't too far off from what Apple's doing now. No moving parts. It was with films like 2001, that boasted 'realistic' depictions of spaceships and space travel, that the pendulum began to swing back toward an aesthetic that looked more utilitarian.

 

Star Wars took that 'realistic' look as far as it could go. It still adhered to old space opera tropes, but reinvented the aesthetic. The world those films (by way of Ralph McQuarrie's art) depicted was lived-in, beaten-down, and seemingly assembled from scrap metal. Everything bristles with hissing pipes and sharp antennae and confusing geometry. Everything is rusty and greasy and patchwork. Even the Death Star, a big minimalist sphere from a distance, looks like a junkyard up close. The aesthetic is reflected in the stories themselves, in a curious undermining of the pulp tropes that inform them -- the droids of Star Wars are constantly malfunctioning and losing parts, the Millenium Falcon is a junk pile that needs constant tinkering, even the Galactic Empire's wonder weapons are failures, disorganized and easily sabotaged. And those mystical lightsabers, too, are visibly industrial things -- they're made from spare lighting parts lying around an effects lab, and they look it. They aren't Excalibur; they're things the Jedi build in their basements. Everything in Star Wars is predicated on the idea that people could actually build these amazing devices, given enough sheet metal and rivets and fibreglass. This goes a LONG way to making Star Wars an enveloping world that draws audiences in from the get-go, even 30-odd years later.

 

A couple years later, Alien took that vibe further into darkness. Alien depicts an industrial, corporatized future, a bleak and boring place full of endless space commutes on ugly space barges staffed by underpaid labourers in ugly utilitarian spacesuits. The film actually takes place on a mining ship, and everything looks like industrial equipment from a smelting plant, including the Alien itself -- a confusion brilliantly milked in several scenes as the Alien camouflages itself into the grimy architecture of the ship. It's so realistic as to be oppressive. It was about as far away as you can get from the look of pulp sci-fi -- although, like Star Wars, it still IS a pulp story, full of action and violence and creepy monsters.

 

Even if audiences weren't consciously aware of this aesthetic shift, it definitely became apparent to filmmakers. That same low-tech vibe was recurrent in sci-fi and cyberpunk all through the '80s and '90s. Aliens, The Terminator, RoboCop, Blade Runner, etc. all take an industrialized, clanking, patchwork look at the future, extrapolating from that same look; the look that implies that technology is not gee-whiz and wondrous, but rather low-budget, utilitarian and sparsely mechanical, faulty, industrial and dangerous, even if it can do amazing things. I think that self-aware, high-functioning / low-tech dichotomy runs to some extent through the whole 'punk' world -- cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk -- to some extent. That's Star Wars' relationship to dieselpunk to me. Others' mileage may vary, of course.

Episodes 1-3 were more streamlined... with Naboo ships looking like SR-71 spy planes and B-2 bombers, and the skyline of Coruscant looking like Metropolis. And the diner in Ep. 2, right out of the '50s.

I've posted here before and discussed at length on The Diesel Powered Podcast that i do think Star Wars is Dieselpunk.

Contemporary in origin.

Decodence - aesthetics and design based on the 20s - 40s.

Punk - the overall arc is rebels fighting against the establishment. What is more "punk" than that? 

But even more, the fuel used in the Star Wars universe is a petroleum based fuel. Evidence? In A New Hope C3PO pines for an oil bath. In Phantom Menace, R2D2 sprays and then ignites oil on the floor. In all of the OT movies the rebel star fighters can be seens being fueled up with hoses...

 

The robots would likely use oil for lubricant, not fuel. Also plenty of things you can transfer through a hose, it wouldn't even need to be a liquid.

Of course, the whole attack on the Death Star scene in Ep 4 was very much like the Battle of Britain. And the sound of the band in the Mos Eisley Cantina certainly echoed to the Jazz Era. Don't forget the whole series was tribute to the Sat morning serials, which is why it started in Episode 4.

Jonny B. Goode said:

Episodes 1-3 were more streamlined... with Naboo ships looking like SR-71 spy planes and B-2 bombers, and the skyline of Coruscant looking like Metropolis. And the diner in Ep. 2, right out of the '50s.

We concluded on the show it was probably liquified Ewoks. :)

Atterton said:

The robots would likely use oil for lubricant, not fuel. Also plenty of things you can transfer through a hose, it wouldn't even need to be a liquid.

This discussion is still going on? Wow.

Just because something is inspired from the the same source doesn't mean they are the same thing. Star Wars could be called Spacepunk, but it is not dieselpunk. Sorry, it just isn't. Seriously your incredible leap of logic that C3PO  wanting an oil bath means the fuel they use in the Star Wars univers i s petroleum based is incredible to say the least. The oil bath is for lubrication, and you can use any oil for that, mineral, vegetable, any oil. In no way does that mean the oil he is using is made from crude. As a matter of fact the TIE in TIE fighters stands for twin ion engine, which is its energy source.



Johnny Dellarocca said:

I've posted here before and discussed at length on The Diesel Powered Podcast that i do think Star Wars is Dieselpunk.

Contemporary in origin.

Decodence - aesthetics and design based on the 20s - 40s.

Punk - the overall arc is rebels fighting against the establishment. What is more "punk" than that? 

But even more, the fuel used in the Star Wars universe is a petroleum based fuel. Evidence? In A New Hope C3PO pines for an oil bath. In Phantom Menace, R2D2 sprays and then ignites oil on the floor. In all of the OT movies the rebel star fighters can be seens being fueled up with hoses...

 

If you got to hear the discussion on our podcast you'll learn that I'm on the fence on this one. I won't say it's not but I'm not ready to include it in my personal list of dieselpunk movies. I admit I see a lot of decodence in it but I'm not sure I see enough to push me over the line.

I'm not sure how this discussion restarted.

The themes of IV, V and VI are dieslepunk with strong 70s Si Fi stylistics but I, II, and III have a definite Dieslepunk vibe.   Great way to show evolution of technology.  Even the sounds of the early ship engines sound like piston engines as opposed to jets.   I, II and III are philosophically deeper, less pulp comic in orientation however.   Sort of having "Rise and Fall of the Third Riech" as a prequel to "Terry and the Pirates" (and yes I know T & P is based on the CBI theater, not the European).

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